Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Homecoming weekend at William and Mary started out all wet. On Saturday morning, the Homecoming Parade was cancelled due to rain, much to our disappointment (we love a cheesy parade, plus the Pep Band was going to march). But thankfully, the skies cleared in time for the big football game against undefeated U. Mass. Passes were thrown, tackles were made, points were scored, yadda yadda, we lost. It was pretty exciting, though...high scoring, and we did much better than we were supposed to, scoring 34 points against a supposedly top-ranked team. They scored 48, but whatever.
Okay, who really cares about that? I was just there to see the Pep Band anyway. I was shocked, disheartened, dismayed and downright irritated that the band didn’t have the opportunity to do their traditional half-time scramble show. Instead, there was a lame non-show of introducing important people, presenting the homecoming court (Homecoming court? Are you kidding me? In 2007??) and taking photos, and that was it. There’s 20 minutes of my life wasted. This is what we missed seeing. The scramble show doesn’t involve precision marching or playing while marching. It involves the much less challenging running randomly all over the field, then getting in position, and playing while standing still. All the fun of a marching band, with a fraction of the rehearsal time. I’m not sure what all the formations are, but I know there’s a martini glass, the letter F, a clock, and the initials WM in there. Ending with, of course, the alma mater. Because at William and Mary, you just can’t have too much alma mater.
Here’s an interesting sidebar. When I was at W&M, we were the Indians, complete with goofily grinning Indian mascot. Political correctness axed the Indians and the mascot, and the team name was replaced with “The Tribe” and a logo that incorporated the tasteful use of feathers (see above). Last year, the NCAA ruled that the name “Tribe” was not offensive, but the use of the feathers was, and they would have to go. The Florida State Seminole logo of an angry Indian in war paint is okay, but our two feathers are offensive. I guess that’s just one of the perks of having a big-time, big money football program...the NCAA lets you do what you want. Of course, this enrages the W&M fans. Every scrap, every stitch of university-sponsored athletic sportswear has had to remove those two feathers (new logo to come, not yet ready). But in a wonderful show of Tribe Pride, folks show up to the games in all of their old feathered gear, wearing feathers in their hair. At the game, some group (I don’t know who) went through the stands with huge bags filled with green and gold feathers, and gave them out to everyone in the crowd. The place was silly with feathers. I enjoyed that part immensely.Here's how we thumb our noses at the NCAA:
Here's the Pep Band playing for the arrival of the team. The arrow's pointing to my son.
This guy runs around the field with this giant flag everytime we score. He did it a lot.
This guy was wearing a green and gold kilt, which gave him a Braveheart look:
And here are the cheerleaders. There are 2 complete sets of cheerleaders, so they can cover both sides of the field at once. I appreciate that.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I've mentioned my opinion about unwarranted standing ovations before, and I was wondering how that would be handled at these college performances. Very cleverly, it turns out. Most W&M groups end their concerts with the Alma Mater, during which students and alumni are all supposed to stand. And of course everyone else in the audience, not wanting to feel left out, stands too (kind of like the National Anthem). Which leaves the whole room standing, and then clapping, at the end of the performance. Tricky, no?
A word about the William and Mary alma mater. In the four years in the mid-1970’s that I was at the school, I don’t remember ever singing the alma mater. I may not have even heard it played...if I did, I don’t remember. I certainly couldn’t have told you the words or hummed a few bars (my husband has the same recollection of the Duke alma mater, which is essentially none). Back in those days, we were all a bit anti-establishment, and college spirit seemed pretty low. Nowadays, things have certainly turned around, the college seems to be oozing with “Tribe Pride,” and they seem to play the alma mater at the drop of a hat. For the first two years that I visited the college as the parent of a student, I heard it many times, but could never remember much more than the line “hark upon the gale.” Please don’t ask me what that means. But this weekend, I sang it four times. So now I at least have the chorus (which is decidedly catchy) memorized. Listen to a snippet of it here.
Friday, October 26, 2007
I love to go into places like Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel just to look at the displays. I rarely buy anything at Chico’s, but I love the way they arrange the clothing according to color, and I love to finger the fabrics. In Fredericksburg, Whittingham’s on Caroline Street is the cream of the merchandising crop, with amazing theme windows that change every month. And my new favorite is World Market, which has been open in the Cosner’s Corner shopping center for about a year. It’s kind of like Pier One meets Ikea’s Marketplace: furniture, housewares, rugs and pillows, gourmet food, wine, bath items, jewelry, baskets...just aisles and aisles of cool things to look at and not buy. I never get tired of stopping there for a quick look at the latest stuff, and they give free samples of coffee, too.
I love candle displays, but face it: you will never, ever use up all of the decorative candles you already own.
I love to look at these wooden bowls and plates. The colors are so vibrant. But you know when you get that one red bowl home, you're going to wonder what the hell you were thinking.
My dishes are white. I love to look at this colored dishware, but I don't think I could ever commit to it.
Here's one thing I can't resist: unusual pastas.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Last week, I was watching the Weather Channel in the morning, and heard Nicole Mitchell mention the Keene, NH Pumpkin Festival. I have a niece who lives in Keene, so I had heard about the Pumpkin Festival before from family members. But until Nicole talked about it on national television, I had no idea how big it really was. I guess I was imagining carved pumpkins by the hundreds, maybe a few thousand, but not the tens of thousands. At Keene’s first festival in 1991, they had 600 pumpkins, and by 2003, they set their 8th world record for the most lit jack o’lanterns at one time with 28,952 pumpkins. I can’t even imagine what that looks like. It must be awesome. The photo above shows just a tiny fraction of Keene pumpkins. Clearly, when you’re talking pumpkin festivals, you’re talking Keene.
So I was pretty excited when I read that there would be a Pumpkin Festival in Ladysmith, just a short drive from the Bowling Green Harvest Festival. We could easily hit both festivals in one afternoon. Now I wasn’t expecting anything approaching Keenesque proportions, but I was thrilled to be going somewhere where the jack o’lantern was king. This festival was held in the community of Ladysmith Village (one of those “traditional neighborhood developments” like Idlewild), and was part of a national fundraising campaign, sponsored by the Life is Good folks (those guys who are making a fortune selling stuff with their logo), to benefit local charities, in this case, Caroline County’s Habitat for Humanity. The festival was held on a big grassy field, and featured a few vendors and a bluegrass band, but the emphasis was clearly on the pumpkin carving. The organizers had a goal of carving and lighting 1,400 pumpkins (a drop in the Keene bucket...pumpkin chump change), but the festival wasn’t particularly well-attended (just a few hundred people), so I don’t know if they made the goal. The crew of young volunteers were certainly carving like crazy. This year, we didn’t stay into the evening for the pumpkin lighting, but it’s going to be an annual event, so we’ll get another chance next year.
The scaffolding that holds some of the finished pumpkins, with some of the pumpkins carved with letters to spell out the name of the event, and other messages. Apparently this is a key ingredient of pumpkin festivals:
The bluegrass band, Milford Station:
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Yes, we’re still hunting harvest festivals, and this weekend we went to two. Saturday was a beautiful day, so we took the ride in the country down to Bowling Green for the Harvest Festival, which turned out to be a surprisingly big event. It wasn’t very harvesty...other than a kids’ pumpkin decorating station, it could have been a street festival celebrating just about anything. At one end of the festival area, there was a huge classic car show, then we moved on to the antique tractors, then to the petting zoo (with the animals in depressingly and unnecessarily small enclosures), and at the end of the block, there were amusement park rides, carnival games, and a rock-climbing wall. In between were all of the vendors. I just never get tired of walking down rows and rows of vendors, even if they are hawking things I have absolutely no interest in. In fact, it’s almost always stuff I have no interest in, but I always have this great feeling of anticipation that the next vendor will be the one selling some amazing, beautifully crafted and surprisingly affordable something.
This being election season, every Caroline County candidate had a booth set up, so there were buttons and bumper stickers flying. Plus there were lots of churches selling crafts or yard sale stuff or running raffles, including one clever church giving out free cookies with a Bible verse and a church ad attached (doesn’t matter to me...free cookies are free cookies). There was all the usual southern street festival food: the barbecue, the fried fish, the funnel cakes, and we managed to sample quite a bit before moving on to another pumpkin festival just a few minutes’ drive away (but more about that one tomorrow).Kid-painted pumpkins:
An alpaca from the petting zoo:
Saturday, October 20, 2007
This is the statue of George Washington in the foyer of Dodd Auditorium at the university named for Mary Washington, George's mother. Now that I'm thinking about it, I can't remember ever seeing a single image of Mary Washington anywhere on campus. I'm sure there is one somewhere, but what does the woman actually look like?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The natural textures: mossy brick wall, gnarled bark of a tree, stone pavers, river pebbles, rushing water, wooden planks.
The colorful patterns: cherry tomatoes in the market, bolts of quilting fabric, skeins of yarn (these last two taken with my quilter/knitter mom in mind)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
It finally feels like fall in Fredericksburg, after the daytime highs dropped about 20 degrees in one 24-hour period last week. Now we’re in that odd period where you might wake up to temperatures dipping into the 40’s, but highs that can creep back into the 80’s—days when you feel like you need heat in the morning and AC by the afternoon. The leaves are starting to turn (although this part of Virginia won’t hit its peak until November), and the weather today was crisp enough, at least in the morning, to need a sweater.
So it seemed like a good time to go hunting harvest festivals. You can find dozens of these, sponsored by churches and schools and small farms, all within a short drive during October and November in Virginia. For me, the perfect fall festival needs these ingredients: pumpkins, mums, apples and cider, jams and honey, hayrides, and crafts. A few farm animals or a little entertainment wouldn’t hurt, plus some hot spiced cider to sip, some bales of hay to sit on, and a picturesque setting to enjoy. Oh, and there should be no admission charge. Now I admit it’s hard to find all of this in one place. Belvedere Plantation has a “Fall Fest” that runs through October and November, with all of these ingredients, plus more. Lots of family activities and attractions, the area’s biggest “Maize Maze,” plus acres of pick-your-own pumpkins. But the $14 per person admission charge (plus extra for wagon rides, scarecrow-building, etc.) is just too much, especially for oldsters like us who aren’t taking advantage of all the kiddie activities, and the crowds and lines don’t help. The whole thing is just a bit too corporate for me...not exactly the sort of small-time local operation we like best.
So in search of something a bit more homegrown, we scanned the festival listings online, and wanting to stay close to home, checked out a couple of offerings in the area. Our first stop was a nearby church, which offered some baked goods, a few jams and preserves, tables of yard sale items, and a couple of games for the kids. “Festival” was definitely an overstatement. So we continued on to Clark’s Farm, a roadside plant nursery in Stafford County. This had a bit more to offer, with a couple of small mazes made out of fencing and haybales, perfect for little kids (not so good for anyone taller than about 4 feet). They had plenty of pumpkins and mums for sale, some jams and honeys, and a few pettable farm animals. I’m not that big on pets or wildlife, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for farm animals, having grown up in an area utterly devoid of them. This was a nice first taste of the fall festival season, but I’m still holding out for a hayride and a cup of hot cider.Here's a baby pig from Clarks:
Who doesn't like a dried cornhusk donkey?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The college is pretty quiet—no hotbed of unrest here. Well, except when the administration tried to change the name (and ultimately succeeded) from Mary Washington College. And also when the president was fired this April, after less than a year in the position, for being arrested for drunk driving twice...in two days.
Mary Washington has one of the most picturesque college campuses I’ve ever seen, and having done college tours with two kids, I’ve seen plenty. Some colleges look like a mish-mash of architectural styles (Wesleyan University, anyone?), but at M-Dub, most of the architecture is pretty classical (lots of red brick and columns). And it’s a great little college, too, so if you have a high schooler looking for a small school with a good academic reputation at a bargain price (well, as colleges go) in a nice town, with a pretty campus and a terrific faculty (including the current winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry), check out Mary Wash.DuPont Hall, the home of Klein Theatre:
Monroe Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus, and home to many of the social science departments:
The Campus Center:
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Now the catch is that most of the food is made fresh while you wait, and waiting is the main activity of the day, right up there with eating. I’d say it’s equal parts waiting, equal parts eating. It’s a little like being at an amusement park, waiting on line for the popular rides, except in this case, it’s the popular food. The real pros make a whole day of it, getting there early to nab a picnic table, setting up canopies and chairs, bringing in coolers of drinks, and making a tailgate-style party with friends and family.
Up until Saturday, I hadn't eaten enough oysters in my life to know whether I actually liked them. On Saturday, I ate them every which way but raw, and found them to be fairly uninteresting, unless they were deep fried (deep frying improves anything). I also ate lots of clam chowder (no lines on a warm day for hot soup), including this bowl, with the biggest clam I've ever encountered in soup.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Assateague Island has 37 miles of protected beaches, without any shorefront development—a real contrast to all of the building going on along the beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We had a surprisingly warm weekend, with shining sun, warm water, and mild waves...really a perfect beach weekend.
Here's a view of Main Street. All three of these houses have the center gable, which I'm told is an architectural feature distinctive to the historic homes of Chincoteague. Modern development is starting to encroach on the island, and we noticed more new developments of condos, townhouses, and oversized vacation homes, but vintage cottages built during the town's heyday as a fishing village still dominate.
In addition to its daily focus on water safety, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Chincoteague provides help with the annual pony swim in July, when wild ponies are guided across the channel from the wildlife refuge to the town to be auctioned off, which keeps the pony population stable. Here's the station:
Curtis Merritt Harbor on the south end of the island, where small commercial fishing vessels and charter boats are docked.